Date of Award

5-2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

History

Advisor

Grant, Roger

Abstract

Robert Winship Woodruff was born December 6, 1889, and died March 7, 1985. For more than sixty-two years he headed the Coca-Cola Company, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Woodruff amassed a tremendous fortune and was for years the richest man in Georgia and one of the wealthiest in the South. His wealth made him extremely powerful in political circles, and he came to dominate the city of Atlanta in a way unlike any other private citizen in any other comparable American city of the time. Though he never held elected or appointed political office, Woodruff controlled all major policy decisions made under the administrations of Mayors William Berry Hartsfield (1932-1941 and 1943-1961) and Ivan Allen, Jr. (1962-1969). He also had tremendous influence on Georgia governors and U. S. Congressmen and Senators from that state.
The decade of the 1960s was the time at which Woodruff's personal power and influence were at their peak. He recognized that Atlanta was on the cusp of great social change stemming from the civil rights movement, and he believed that by guiding and supporting Atlanta's leaders, he could ensure that progress would be made in a timely fashion and with a minimum of rancor. Woodruff personally underwrote many of the city's endeavors to combat poverty, make slum areas more livable, and provide cultural and art venues for Atlanta's citizens. His support, given in his characteristically behind-the-scenes manner, was critical to steady leadership and, therefore, peace in Atlanta during the 1960s.

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